Scandal impacts priestly ambition

Deliver us from evil. This should be our prayer as the Church endures the ongoing scandal resulting from clerical sex abuse. I never grew up in the Church not effected by the clerical sex abuse scandal. As I began discerning priesthood several years ago, I became the target of jokes, whispers and disapproval. I never thought, however, that in the years of my priestly formation the scandal could grow to what it is today. Revelations of clerical sex abuse have now reached the highest echelons of the Church. Even seminarians, young men discerning God’s will for their lives, were victims of abuse by the very men they trusted with their futures. Who could I trust?

One afternoon, after reading article after article about the extensive abuse, I asked myself why I was still studying to be a priest. The clerical collar, the badge of the Catholic priesthood, no longer looked noble but dirty. The parish no longer sounded like an oasis of prayer but a crime scene. I began to ask myself why I wanted to become a priest. What was my intention? Did I want the benefits of a priestly life? Did I want to escape the world that was seemingly falling apart around me? Did I have something to hide? Then in an illuminating moment, all of my fears and anxiety faded away.

I was reminded why I wanted to become a priest; I wanted to serve Jesus Christ and his Church. I wanted to be a medic on the battlefield of life, binding the wounds left by sin, carrying my brothers and sisters into the safety of the Father’s arms. This was my vocation, and no sin of any priest or bishop could stop me from pursuing that purpose that God had created me for. Today I look at this crisis and I see the pain and suffering, but I recognize it as a call to arms. As a man studying for priesthood I must “put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11) because as an earthy ambassador of Jesus Christ “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

The priesthood may be disfigured by sinful men who have hidden in its ranks, but the Catholic priesthood is still the love of the heart of Jesus, a self-emptying sacrificial love. Jesus tells us throughout the Gospels not to be afraid. Perhaps for a long time we didn’t know what that meant, but in this time of great struggle he asks us to trust in him. We may be tempted to fall into despair but we must look at ourselves and see what lies in our hearts. We cannot undo the serious crimes that have been perpetrated by corrupted clergy, but we can change the future of the Church by looking into our own hearts to see what we find there. Is there lust, envy and hatred that has clung in the deepest caverns of our hearts? Have we turned our hearts into vaults, locking God out of the places in our lives where we need him most?

As a young man studying for priesthood, I have been forced many times to examine my weaknesses, faults and sins. Like a block of marble in an art studio, priestly formation chips away at our hearts. This sometimes painful process seeks to reveal that beautiful and absolutely unique piece of art that lies within that block of stone. This crisis has helped me to understand why I must root sin out of my life. I must not only do it for myself, but for God and his people. Over the past few weeks we have seen how much harm sin can cause. We may feel like we can do nothing, but we can transform the Church my starting to transform ourselves.

In the past few years I have met many priests and religious. Some are only recently ordained while others have dedicated decades to ministering to God’s people. I encounter them at Mass, in the confessional, the breakfast table and the classroom. These men and women have been lanterns illuminating the way along my path of discernment, and I cannot imagine getting this far without them. God has sent these priests and religious into my life in order to pick me up when I lose strength and encourage me when I have lost all courage.

We need priests, but most of all, we need holy priests. While today may be perceived as the worse time to become a priest, I see it as the most important time to study for priesthood in recent memory. I am honored to study and pray beside the men that I meet in formation today. Many of my friends have already entered seminary, and their love for Christ and his Church are hope for me and hope for the future. As a storm buffets the Church, Jesus is asking you step out of the boat and reach out to him. The waves are crashing, but keep your eyes on Jesus and be not afraid.

A Library for Young People in Egypt

Sheraton-Heliopolis is the name of a newer suburb of Cairo, one that did not even exist a few decades ago. Named after the original Sheraton hotel, close to the international airport, which was at first the only existing building there at the time, it is now a busy home to over 400,000 people.

The Catholic Church has established a pastoral center here, named the Diakonia Development Center, to serve the various pastoral and social needs of the Catholic parish community. It is here that the children and young people of the Good Samaritan group also meet.

The plan is to establish a small library in the center for the 150 or so children and young people who regularly come here, above all in order to help them become more familiar with the Holy Scriptures. It is especially important for them, as a religious minority, to have a sound knowledge of the Bible, since they are often asked questions and need to be able to give clear and coherent answers to them.

Sometimes the questions are put to them in a deliberately provocative or manipulative way, making it very important for these Christian children to deepen and extend their knowledge of the Scriptures from an early age and especially to have a good understanding of those passages in the Bible that are often used or abused by non-Christians to attack their faith.

At the same time it is very important for these young people and for their own personal development to be able to understand how God leads them and guides them by His providence. In this way they come to know Jesus Christ better and believe more deeply in His love. For as Saint Jerome wrote, Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

This Christmas, please help us furnish this library so that young Christians in Egypt can grow in their faith and understanding?

30,000 Copies of the New Testament for the Central African Republic

The Central African Republic has been a country in crisis since it gained independence in 1960, with one coup following the next. The population has been terrorized by an unending stream of armed groups that may go by different names, but always commit the same crimes. They loot houses, burn down villages, abduct innocent people, rape women and girls, and kill. In 2013, a bloody civil war broke out and large parts of the country are still under rebel control today. The government has done nothing to intervene, abandoning the people to their fate.

The only help the general populace receives comes from the Church. The Church takes care of orphans, the poor and the sick, runs schools and hospitals, and, in its convents, monasteries and missions, gives shelter to refugees whose houses were burned down by rebels. Again and again, priests and religious risk their lives to protect defenseless women and children from armed assailants. Priests have been taken hostage, several have been killed, and many have been threatened at gunpoint.

Putting the country back together is not only a matter of rebuilding houses and the institutions that have been destroyed. First and foremost, the hearts and conscience of the people have to be strengthened and renewed. The country only has hope for a future if hatred can be overcome and a new leaf can be turned over through reconciliation and forgiveness. Believers must also gain a deeper understanding of the Good News of Christ. After all, two thirds of the population may be Christian, but the belief in witchcraft is still deeply rooted in many places and superstition is widespread.

The Archbishop of Bangui, Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, believes that it is essential for the people to be able to read the Holy Scriptures themselves and to be able to immerse themselves in their message. However, translated copies of the Bible in the national language have sold out and need to be reprinted. The cardinal considers this to be one of the most pressing projects of all.

As a Gift of Faith this Christmas please help with the printing of the New Testament in the Central African Republic Help bring peace and reconciliation to this troubled country.

Being a Voice for the Voiceless

Because Faith gives Hope.

Ministering to the Sick

Being a Voice for the Voiceless

Support a Church-Run Meal Service in Lebanon

For many people in Lebanon, a hot meal is not something to be taken for granted. In the town of Zaleh, the poverty is particularly acute. The town is not far from the Syrian border, and as a result many refugees have ended up here, having left all their possessions behind in Syria. Even among the local Lebanese population, there are many needy people, especially among the elderly and the children whom nobody seems to be caring for.

This was the reason why the Melkite Greek Catholic Church decided to set up the St. John the Merciful Table in 2015. They wanted help people by, among other things, providing a regular hot meal, or “food table.” It is named after the seventh century Saint John the Merciful, who was renowned for his exceptional love for the poor. Wherever he saw need, he worked with all his energies and all his resources to alleviate it. When he finally became Patriarch of Alexandria, he was feeding some 7,900 poor people on a daily basis. He died around the year 619 and is revered as a saint both by Catholics and by Orthodox Christians.

Today, the outreach ministry provides over a thousand people with a hot meal each day, an increase of 400 people compared to the previous year. Many Syrian refugees are also involved, helping in the kitchens, so that they can also have the opportunity to earn a living. There is a dietary assistant from a Catholic hospital in the town who helps to ensure that the food is nutritionally well-balanced and healthy. For the elderly and sick, who cannot get out of their homes, the food is brought to them by volunteers.

It is not merely about food for the body, but also about communicating the love of God and human warmth and affection to those in need. Many are quite alone. The St. John the Merciful table has become a place for them to gather, not only to eat, but also to talk with other people, to share their warmth and a smile, and to lend a sympathetic ear to listen to their concerns. Prayers are said before every meal and a hymn is sung, underlining the fact that this is above all about the care of souls. It is important for everyone to experience this spiritual dimension.

“We all of us feel the love of Jesus, our Savior, in this way. It is a sign of His love for us all, one that helps to heal every wound,” says one of the women helpers.

Aid to the Church in Need has been supporting this project ever since it began.

Will you join us in supporting this work to meet the physical and spiritual needs of Syrian refugees and others in Lebanon?

Emergency Aid for Homeless People in Central African Republic

Many Catholic priests and religious have risked their lives trying to protect the defenseless civilian population of the Central African Republic, a country which, sadly, has never truly known peace. In the 57 years since it gained independence, this country – one of the poorest in the world – has suffered one military coup after another. It is hard to keep track of all the different armed groups in the country today. Their names may differ but the crimes they commit are the same everywhere – looting, burning, rape, abduction, murder. Aid for People Victimized by Rebel Attacks in the Central African Republic

Since 2013, the country has effectively been in a state of civil war. Although the situation in the capital Bangui is largely stable, the remainder of the country is still in the hands of various rebel groups, who have since split still further. The government – which even in ‘normal’ times was unable to provide the people across vast swathes of the country with even a minimum of schooling, health care, security, law and order – is now almost totally absent. The civil authorities and the police were often the first to save their own skins in the face of the advancing rebel forces. Only the Church remains.

Many priests were themselves threatened with guns, abducted and even murdered. But to this day they continue to open the doors of their churches and mission stations to give shelter, regardless of religion or ethnicity, to civilians whose villages and towns have been attacked and who have lost everything but the clothes on their backs. The Catholic Church has always been and continues to be a constant voice for peace and reconciliation.

In May and June 2017, the Diocese of Alindao in the south of the country was the scene of heavy fighting between warring armed groups. In the town of Alindao itself around 150 people were killed during this time. Most of the people in the affected areas have fled their homes. These people, who even before the conflict were already desperately poor and living from hand to mouth, have now lost everything. They still cannot return to their homes, since the threat from the rebels remains serious and the killings and acts of violence continue.

The people can only put their trust in God, and they look to the Church for everything, since they can expect practically no help from any other source. “The Church has to provide for everything, since the State has failed,” says Bishop Cyr-Nestor Yapaupa sadly.

People know that they can count only on God and on the Church. One man commented, “We are hoping the fighting will end soon, so that we can finally return home. Everywhere else people are being helped, but here no one seems interested in our difficult situation. God is our only protection; that is why we go to Mass every day to ask God to hear us and help us in our situation. Fortunately, the Catholic Church is also there for us. The bishop is on the front line of the efforts to resolve this crisis.”

For now, the bishop needs help to care for these refugees, among whom there are many children. He is counting on the generosity of our benefactors to fill his empty hands, so that he can provide the barest necessities for the 3,000 refugees under his care. We are not going to disappoint him, and we are confident of your support, and so we have already given emergency aid.

As a Gift of Faith, this Christmas please help us continue to provide emergency aid to refugees in Central African Republic.